Coming Face to Face with God’s Will
4th Sunday of Advent
December 20, 2020
OK, how is this for a good day? In the first three hours: something woke me up early, so the day started a “quart low” in the sleep department; then the furnace stopped working; then a bag of frozen raspberries leaked all through the refrigerator, top to bottom; then cell phone decided that it no longer wished to ring; and finally, I bought a new set of dishes (60% off!), only to find that one box has round dishes in them (the others are square). And how is your day going?
Don’t we all have days like this? Somehow, all of these seemingly chance occurrences are in a very real sense the permissive or active “Will of God” for us on a daily basis. The scriptures for this Sunday give us an excellent insight into God’s will by looking at how Mary encountered the Archangel Gabriel at the Annunciation (Luke 1:26-38).
The Virgin Mary is suddenly in the presence of an angel, who announces what God wishes for her life. Certainly Mary had other plans! But now she is being asked to set those plans aside. Yet the angel seems to have brought such good news! What does he say? “This child will be great and be called Son of the Most High, and his reign will have no end.” You will notice that there is not even a hint of suffering to come from the angel.
How does Mary react to this “good news?” She is a bit suspicious. She asks questions: “How can this be?” She already realizes there will be more to the story. What is going through her mind? To begin with, “How will I tell Joseph that I am going to have a child and God is the father?” or “How can I possibly be the mother of the Messiah?”
The angel answers her questions only by repeating and further explaining the great promises of God; but at this time, Gabriel in no way reveals how much suffering and rejection she and her Son would go through. Mary must say yes without knowing everything in advance. And so it is with us as well.
When God typically asks us to do something, he usually doesn’t show us the whole path, but only the first few steps. If he showed us everything we would go through for him, most of us would probably say, “no way!” So the Lord typically, though not always, is very gentle at first. He knows what is best for us, even though it frequently involves suffering. Instead, he usually only reveals his will one step at a time.
Every trial has a purpose in our lives. Every challenge is an opportunity of grace. In fact, each moment of our lives is like the Archangel Gabriel coming to announce the will of God for us. God frequently does not show us how he will work our sufferings to good but when we look at the earthly life of his Son, Jesus, we know that he will work our daily crosses to good in the end as well, even if he doesn’t show us the reasons right away.